An afternoon at Phalgun 2076 was an afternoon well spent. It was an interesting display of expression and talent, by a diverse mix of trained and self-taught artists, doing art as a profession, hobby or passion.
When we study poetry and prose and drama (the way that it’s taught in schools/colleges), we learn about what the writer must have been thinking and feeling when he/she wrote what he/she wrote. There is a background to the literature. It records history in a way. And of course every piece of literature is a story.
This was the first art exhibition I went to, where most of the artists were present to explain their work. It was quite a revelation that all these artists at Phalgun were telling stories through their paintings… expressing their thoughts and feelings. Art in school (where my only exposure to art has been) is usually taught as a co-curricular subject, and as it doesn’t affect the overall grade performance, we do it because it is to be done, and without much seriousness. Though subconsciously aware that art performed a similar sort of a role as literature, I never did look at art that way. If it looked good, well, it was good. (An art illiterate of sorts!)
If not for my friend Ritu, I doubt I’d have taken the effort to travel several kilometres for this, but I am glad I did. It was interesting to hear the stories of how the artists started painting, how they learnt and figured things out and evolved. For some this is their full time occupation. Others do it in their free time or for relaxation.
With the focus of the exhibition being inanimate objects, artists chose different things we encounter in our daily lives – the tea glass, the suitcase, the lantern, the kite – to name a few. Some artists attempted new art forms, mixing different art media and materials. Paper and metal, charcoal and pastels, ballpoint pen and paint, newspaper and crayons. There were “inner meanings” that elements in the art works subtly conveyed. After speaking to many of the artists, the feeling I got was that the curator Vasanth Rao had taken a lot of interest in each artist’s work, giving them ideas, tips and guiding them. A few mentioned that he had a significant influence on the final outcomes.
So here I am now with a different perspective to viewing art. Why did the artist choose the topic? What was the thinking and feeling? What is the story? Rather than using my own words which could be a bit off the mark, I’m taking the liberty of quoting from the exhibition brochure / promotion material.
Rituu has clear opinions about light and space. Lighting is an essential ingredient around us, be it at home or in life. Emotional and physical space from people guides us to spread the right light in our life. Rituu’s attempts are to present this school of thought visually. She connects and relates her concept to the traditional lantern which she has used in her paintings to depict right light source. The patch of yellow depicts the much experienced space promoting the light.
Shweta opines that we all negotiate in all spheres of life, be it personal or professional. Many a time we negotiate with ourselves, to make the right choices, or to come out of wrong choices. Shweta sees ‘chai’ as a metaphor for this process of negotiations. Her art in charcoal and pastels shows empty/full ‘chai’ glasses. It is left to the viewer to imagine the discussions and conclusions of the ‘chai’ negotiations and that is the beautiful abstraction caught in her art work.
Kishwar has done Collage Art, using paper/newspapers. She makes collages because they speak about the time we live in. Spectacles is her central character, which speaks about the importance of vision and focus to recognise necessary elements that are spread across the artwork. This series developed out of her ongoing habit of reading the daily paper, visual imagery and newsworthy articles. The viewers can create their own narratives from the resulting images.
Hina Bhatt works on the concept of our roots, human relationships and their connections. A tree’s roots are vital in bringing nutrients and water to all other parts of the tree, anchoring the tree in the ground, determining its alignment, storing nutrients, and fighting off competition from other trees for the limited resources available. She opines that we humans may be fragile but our bonds can be strong and deep rooted. Our relationships are either backed by our roots or suspended and attached between them.
Alka finds the untold and unheard experiences of the common man very fascinating. She feels that the city of Mumbai, with luxury development on one side and slums on the other, is flooded with individual dreams and experiences. None knows what happened to whom and when except Time. The deaf and dumb buildings, the mute streets and silent clock are the witnesses of all the chaos, and are the main objects of her paintings.
Reena opines that there are many keys in our lives – the house key, the car key, the garage key, the keys that we find in music, the answer keys that we find in puzzles and so on. Various keys in our journey in life represent different ideas. She finds unlocking of life occasions with these keys is an interesting expression. Her compositions using keys as a metaphor gives a sense of hope and opportunity to unlock the locked. The most important keys are humanity, compassion, hope, faith, optimism and opportunity that help us discover what life still has in store. No door opens with a wrong key. So, it becomes very crucial to recognise and use the right key in various situations to unlock barriers and limitations and move forward to the next level.
Siddharth works on the subject of shirts that depict the abstraction of the strong human figurative. There is an impact of clothing choices on the way in which we perceive and judge each other. The challenge lies in the ability to make fine distinctions about other humans from posture, clothing and expression. He makes assumptions about human figures from his perspective to create art.
Naznin feels that in the journey of life, we all travel with baggage/suitcases which eventually get filled with good and bad experiences. Everyone sooner or later has to drop them and move ahead into the future, but there is a value in remembering our past with these bags. They carry our journey tales from which we either learn or earn. But dragging it or carrying it around with us doesn’t serve much purpose. Like it or not, the past is over. What’s done is done, and we cannot keep carrying the same bag ahead. Recognizing this and acknowledging the past, is one of the best ways to lighten your emotional load. Her keen observation on such discarded baggage forms the base for her visual rendering.
Bhavna Shah opines that both man-made and nature-made occasions play important roles in creating life’s narration. She uses the kettle (made with wire mesh) to represent man-made occasions and flowers in water colours to represent nature-made occasions, making a visual presentation of the abstraction of life events and the dramas in it. The art work renders the poetry of relationship, warmth and welcoming feeling – depicting hospitality, culture and tradition.
Shraddha has attempted to capture on paper, the physical elements of vocal music that creates rhythm. Rhythm, in music, is the placement of sounds in time and is the one indispensable element of all music. It is this rhythm of regular and irregular pulses caused in music that manifests time in her vocal art. A singer herself, she sees the tabla as the driver of a rhythmic pattern followed by the dagga and tanpura. The lines and the circles in these instruments create all the required visual drama to have a composed visual treat.
Seema is fascinated by the role and character of the Queen in chess, the most powerful and only woman on the board. Many people do not realize that queens in medieval times often held a powerful, yet precarious, position. The king was often guided by her advice, and in many cases the queen played games of intrigue at court. She brilliantly uses the Queen of the chess board to represent the leadership quality in women – for a woman leader, leadership is meant not only for accomplishing goals, but also for transforming the people around into better people.
Jyoti Ranjan’s paintings depict her view of Motherhood, and the love and care that it brings. A mother’s love and emotional availability are vital to a child’s well-being, leaving a profound and long-lasting impact on the child. The selfless love and devotion towards the child are grown from the seeds of innocence; no cunning, scheming, selfish motives are involved here, this is pure love which only mothers are blessed with.
Rajesh has a keen eye on the shape, size and specification of objects, especially antiques. He finds them fascinating because of their age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and other unique features. Antiques represent previous time periods in human history, and are symbols of the culture, tradition and customs of those eras. Culture, tradition and customs play an important role in defining a civilization, and without them completely disconnected with the past. The oil medium that he uses helps him to get the essential effect of time.
Anjali feels that a free flying soul will always tell you how wonderful, life-changing and liberating it is to soar alone. Flying kites remind us of this free spirit. They simply make big bold decisions with every breeze of wind. Such flying free spirits are the ones with wild fire in their eyes who fly to soak up a perfect sunset. They make switching boundaries look as easy as changing their clothes. They live life for themselves. In a society that encourages conformity, this makes them uninhibited soul warriors. Her water colour compositions present a tender yet strong sense of flying experiences.
Swapna’s art is based on the Thakar tribe of Maharashtra. She hails from a small place called ‘Ghoti’ near Pune where this tribe has a predominant presence, which is why she feels so connected with their culture, language, traditions, food, festivals and fashion. Majority of the Thakar tribe people in Maharashtra are marginalised and hence are backward, but they have rich traditions of folk dance, songs and unique culture of their own. Watching these people day in and out, she finds it thrilling to portray them and their emotions. Swapna believes that the ‘deep roots’ of a tree indicate how old it is. The tree surely reaches for the sky, but it equally holds the ground which is its support. Same is for our culturally strong India. No matter how modern or globalized one becomes when it comes to Indian roots there is something about it that never fades and remains in the heart of each Indian.
Kasturi loves to paints bottles in different colours, shapes and sizes. The magic of object paintings is that they can show us a new way of looking at the ordinary objects around us. She is passionate about work in the area of Diversity and Inclusion and this series, done with knife, is an attempt to represent that society exists in all shapes, sizes and colours and each one of us matters. Together, we make all.
Prradnya’s subject of art is Hindu spiritual and mythological concepts. She opines that our spiritual and mythological stories and concepts have meaning and solution for each situation. In Hinduism, Shankh is used in all religious rituals to announce the beginning of a prayer or arrival of deity and in some places sacred water is collected and distributed in it. Currently she is working on a series of Shankh (conch shell) as it symbolizes an auspicious beginning, freshness and hope.
Sameera has had a keen interest in Tribal jewellery right from her childhood, and this eventually developed into a passion. She has designed and created some of her own tribal jewellery, based on beliefs and culture in which a horseshoe and small sea shells are prominent. Tribal jewellery pieces are rarely uniform in shape or exactly symmetrical. The materials used are those found locally, with content and quality varying among the different cultures, artisans, and across time. The aesthetic value can be seen embedded within the design, overshadowing any other meaning or use the piece might have. It is not only beautiful, but often communicates messages about the wearer’s status, wealth, spiritual beliefs, and functional habits. It also marks group affiliation, communal celebrations and individual rites of passage.
Ashwini originally hails from Bijapur, North Karnataka where the Lambani nomadic tribes have been living for generations. They’re believed to have migrated from the Gor province of Afghanistan, and have adopted traditional aspects of both the Afghani and the Indian cultures. Since childhood, she has seen the Lambani women wear their traditional colourful attire which has its own unique style which she attempts to present it through various compositions.
Annapurna chose to work with the electronic component, the resistor, that relates to the obstacles in life. Just like resistors are used to reduce current flow and to divide voltages, obstacles in our life are resistors that reduce our development and halt our progress or derails our best laid plans. The weak see these obstacles as problems whereas the strong people see them as opportunities. The resistor component in her paintings is the metaphor of obstacles. Around this resistor she depicts the celebration of life through colours and forms.
Prem is just 18 years old and has already carved a niche for himself with his Impressionist style. The most conspicuous characteristic of impressionism in painting is an attempt to accurately and objectively record visual reality in terms of transient effects of light and colour. Emphasis is given to the accurate depiction of light. Prem loves to play with lights and shadows. His art has a good combination of striking, solid lines with visible soft lines.
Nishikant observes life and its working patterns acutely, and feels that it is very essential to be open minded by sharing knowledge, experience and resources. For anything to be successful, be it big or small, one has to have effective collaboration with knowledge sharing. This is the real power and helps you grow and stay motivated. He thinks when people are open to present their values, it gives a sense of purpose. By creating an environment where people feel like their knowledge makes a difference, they will clearly see how their work fits in the bigger mission of life. This is his thought process in making this series –“Not open to all”.
I’ve had quite an enlightening experience on this art journey and hope you, the reader, have too! I wish all the artists the very best and every success and happiness in chasing their dreams. If you are interested in any of the art works you’ve seen here, do mail the curator Vasanth Rao <email@example.com> and he will put you in touch with the artist.